12 September 2012

morning runner

Orion hung low and large in the Southern sky as I closed the door softly behind me and padded out into the dark at 5:30am. I had risen early in an attempt to beat the sticky heat. It was a comfortable sixteen Celsius but as soon as I turned onto the sidewalk the humidity hit me. The start of my regular route north involves a steady half mile incline on Maypoint Road. As my loop today would be over sixteen miles I took the rise slowly but by the time I crossed the Trans-Canada Highway I was breathing hard and already sweating.
I trotted across the empty four-lane highway and headed on into the warm blackness. After thirty minutes I reached the three mile mark and slipped unseen onto Sleepy Hollow Road. This was the last time I would hit the ten minute mile pace. I use this course regularly and can peel off the broadly oval route towards home at many points resulting in runs ranging from eight to eighteen miles. So, I know the mile markers by heart and once I reached the Confederation Trail close to the Jail I dropped to 10m 15secs a mile with legs like lead and lungs like creaky bellows. My Lycra shirt and shorts were soaked. The Trail grew more familiar as starlight faded but everywhere was silent as the grave and I minimised the crunch of my footfalls by keeping to the grassy fringe.

I had eaten plenty of carbs the previous day and forced down a bowl of oats first thing but I was out of energy. I took regular pulls from the drinks bottle that sits in a belt-mounted pocket behind me and swallowed a sachet of energy gel after ten miles but something was decidedly wrong. I let my mind empty to find that zone where the right pace is effortless. I counted my steps and timed my breaths to them – one inhale to three paces and one exhale to three paces. Right, left, right – left, right, left. After a short while the hypnotic effect worked and I closed my eyes to run blind for ten seconds at a time.

It was 7:30am and broad daylight as I reached the eleven mile point where the Trail terminates at the Ghiz Park in downtown Charlottetown. The yielding surface of the Trail gave way to the harsh jarring of pavement and I made my way across town to Victoria Park. There I picked up the boardwalk and ran beside the harbour for a thousand yards, slowing all the time until mile thirteen when my dead legs gave up.

I walked for two minutes and downed the last of my water. My left foot was screaming from a long-standing, intermittent injury, my thighs were on fire and salty sweat made my eyes sting. Gently I settled back into a slow jog and climbed fifty feet above sea level. As the gradient steepened I walked again and realised heavy grey clouds had gathered. The road leveled and I jogged again to mile fifteen when a thick drizzle began to fall. After a short walk to cross the light Sunday morning traffic on North River Road I set off running on the long descent to Ellens Creek Bridge.

Another minute of walking up the sharp rise away from the creek then I was running the final half mile up Beach Grove Road. At 16.36 miles this is the second longest training run in my marathon preparation and at two hours and fifty minutes is below the pace I anticipate for a four and a half hour marathon. I’ve run it twice before, ten minutes quicker. I put the lacklustre performance down to a combination of lack of sleep, insufficient to eat and drink both on the day and the previous day plus drenching eighty per cent humidity.

PS: I drank two pints of water, had a hot bath, slept for two hours then ate a large lunch and began to feel considerably better. The following day I suffered no ill effects and ran five miles in forty-five minutes. Making time to stretch my leg muscles thoroughly after Sunday’s run had probably kept any delayed-onset-muscle-soreness at bay the next day. I think I need to eat more the day before long runs. At one hundred and sixty-six pounds I’m about eight pounds lighter than a year ago despite adding considerable calf and thigh muscle mass.

No comments: